Some things don't change -- and haven't in a long time. For the 16th consecutive year, high-tech giant IBM Corp. has nabbed the top spot for the number of patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Not only that, but with 4,186 patents granted in 2008, it also became the first organization to break the 4,000 patent barrier, according to IFI Patent Intelligence, which analyzed USPTO data.
Even as the patent number demonstrates the significance the company places on its intellectual property, IBM announced that it would increase by 50% the number of technical inventions it publishes annually rather than seek patent protection. That would make the inventions freely available.
|IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center, pictured here, is home to a project whose goal is developing an empirical measure of patent quality.|
(country of origin)
|No. of Patents|
|1. IBM (U.S.)||4,186|
|2. Samsung (South Korea)||3,515|
|3. Canon (Japan)||2,114|
|4. Microsoft (U.S.)||2,030|
|5. Intel (U.S.)||1,776|
|6. Matsushita (Japan)||1,745|
|7. Toshiba (Japan)||1,609|
|8. Fujitsu (Japan)||1,494|
|9. Sony (Japan)||1,485|
|10. Hewlett-Packard (U.S.)||1,424|
|Source: IFI Patent Intelligence|
Don't confuse quantity with quality, says Darlene Slaughter, general manager of IFI Patent Intelligence. "What's clear is that many of the world's largest companies are placing a higher priority on protecting their intellectual property. This trend is occurring both here in the U.S. and abroad, especially in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany and other countries in Europe," she says.